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The question that most commentators in college football believe will be answered on Saturday is whether Clemson or Ohio State will be playing LSU for the national championship. It seems to have evaded everyone’s realm of possibility that Oklahoma might actually beat LSU. But those of us who have watched college football this year without the standard belief that the SEC is exponentially better than every other conference realize that there are many reasons to believe OU has a much better chance than Vegas and ESPN seem to believe.
Let’s first look at the narrative that supports an easy win by LSU. They went undefeated in the toughest conference in college football. They have the Heisman Trophy winner leading them on offense and a crazy good defense to scare any opposition. They’re the #1 ranked team in the nation and probably should have been for at least the last four weeks. They’re destined to win, right?
Not so fast. Let’s destroy this narrative right off the bat. Oklahoma lost to Kansas State in a weaker division. But as we learned later in the season, the Big 12 isn’t nearly as weak as most claim. Lest we forget, Big 12 teams have won 10 of 19 games against SEC teams the last four years. That includes a “huge” upset in last year’s Sugar Bowl when Texas defeated Georgia. Speaking of Texas, they’re the one team both LSU and OU played this year. Both teams defeated the Longhorns by seven points.
How do Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts compare? Burrow is better. He won the Heisman, preventing Hurts from being the third Sooner quarterback in a row to win it. The teams are ranked #1 and #2 in offense with LSU averaging 0.2 more yards per game. But OU actually has the highest yards per play average – 8.15 versus 7.79 for LSU. Then, there’s defense. OU is ranked 25th. LSU is ranked 32nd. Unless you’re buying into the notion that the SEC is miles ahead of everyone else, it’s hard to look at the statistics and justify the concept that Oklahoma has no chance. Oh, and Hurts happens to be 2-0 playing against LSU in his career.
The last point is the biggest. LSU is undefeated and widely considered the best team in the game. OU’s loss meant they needed a serious of odd events to take place to even sneak into the playoffs. But there’s an energy that is building around OU that hasn’t been there in two decades. They’re coming into a game with absolutely zero respect. They have a chip on their shoulder as a result, a chip that hasn’t really been there since the national championship game in 2000 when they were given very little chance of defeating Florida State. If OU can channel that chip on their shoulder into results on Saturday, they may be able to look back at the KSU loss as being the best thing to happen to them this season. It showed they were vulnerable. It showed that they needed to fight for everything. And they will.
It will be the biggest upset in college football playoff history. And while sports prognosticators try to figure out how they called it so poorly in the days leading up to the OU-LSU game, the Sooners will be getting ready for OSU or Clemson.
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